is correct -- just imagine how the Gannon scandal would play in the media of the Clinton White House:
Imagine the media explosion if a male escort had been discovered operating as a correspondent in the Clinton White House. Imagine that he was paid by an outfit owned by Arkansas Democrats and had been trained in journalism by James Carville. Imagine that this gentleman had been cultivated and called upon by Mike McCurry or Joe Lockhart—or by President Clinton himself. Imagine that this "journalist" had smeared a Republican Presidential candidate and had previously claimed access to classified documents in a national-security scandal.
South Knox Bubba
helps us stay on top of this week's list of madness. A sampling:
- Bush's lies about the budget.
- Condi's saber rattling over Iran.
- Bush's incompetence regarding North Korea.
- Condi's lies about 9/11.
- Bush lies about Social Security.
- Election officials from Ohio and Florida fail to appear before a Congressionall committee investing the 2004 elections
There's more. Go read.
As it relates to blogging:
Activists write about what they can change; journalists write about what they can prove.
Making a Stand
column today on Dr. Dean. Last line is the best:
Deanism isn't about turning to the left: it's about making a stand.
UK Blogger Sacked
A bookseller in Britain has become the first person in that country to lose his job over blogging. Even though he rarely blogged about work and his boss and referred to neither by name, and even though the company doesn't have a policy about employee blogging, when they found out about his blog, they sacked him
Budget Time Bomb
links to a Washington Post article
(registration required) about how the Bush budget will blow up on whoever is in office in 2010.
For President Bush, the budget sent to Congress last week outlines a painful path to meeting his promise to bring down the federal budget deficit by the time he leaves office in 2009. But for the senators and governors already jockeying to succeed him, the numbers released in recent days add up to a budgetary landmine that could blow up just as the next president moves into the Oval Office.
In New Zealand
in fact. Very cool.
Makes You Want to Scream
Speaking of racism...
This is my friend's blog about her experience as a teacher in a nearby school district -- not too far geographically, millions of miles away in terms of the community. Scroll down on this post
to where she starts writing about prejudice.
More on School Racism
Earlier, I posted
about racism in the schools my daughter attends. Shortly thereafter, I had this interesting experience.
I received a call from a guidance counselor at my daughter's middle school about an upcoming "concerned parents" night, which I know from experience is actually a program designed for minority parents. We started talking about high school, because my daughter is in 8th grade.
Now remember, my daughter is mixed race (which is why I get invited to the minority parents night, even though I am not a minority and my daughter does not consider herself black).
This counselor tells me that my daughter should consider taking career prep classes in high school. The high schools in this state have four "pathways" (nice word for tracks): college prep, college tech, career prep and vocational. I nearly went apoplectic at this suggestion and let me explain why.
My daughter is very bright, but don't take my word for it. She consistently gets good grades. She scores very high on the end of grade (EOG) tests. She took the SAT in 7th grade and got a 780 with no prep (and not having even studied several of the subjects). She has a personalized education plan, which is how the schools handle gifted kids in middle school. And this guidance counselor is suggesting career prep classes in high school?
Can you see why I nearly went ballistic? When I asked the counselor why she was suggesting such a thing, she sputtered a bit and then said that my daughter had a D in both science and math in the last grading period. I was well aware of this and felt it was due to the height of the basketball season (my daughter was on varsity -- did I mention she's also active in sports, band and is mature and exhibits stable behavior?). I had already put measures in place to deal with those grades.
To give this counselor the benefit of the doubt, I might perhaps think she is just very lazy and knew nothing about my child -- but since I know she does
know my child, then I have to assume she was making this recommendation based on something else. And what, praytell, might that something else be? That my child is of color? Its all I could think of.
The counselor has since apologized, after I sent her a fairly scathing email, but keeps insisting that she makes this suggestion to every parent she has contact with. Yeah, right.
I expect much more of this nonsense to go on in high school. I've always told my daughter that she needs to be constantly aware that she is being judged much more harshly. Things a white kid could do and be forgiven for will be held against her. Welcome to life in Amerika.
Bloggers Get Together
The Chapel Hill bloggers conference
is tomorrow. One of the local papers
reports on it. The other (a better paper but clueless about blogging) doesn't.
As I've said before: they knew it could happen and they did nothing. And Condi is a liar
Are They or Aren't They?
Josh Marshall has two interesting notes on the North Carolina leg of Bush's Bamboozlepalooza tour:
(just read the first person)
by the Soc Sec commissioner
Are they or aren't they on the president's bandwagon? We report, you decide.
Lots of fall-out today from the implosion of fake journalist Jeff Gannon
. Here's the crux of the matter:
Having worked in the White House, I can assure everyone that not only would it be impossible to get a White House pass using an alias, it is impossible even to get past the gate for an appointment using an alias. Thorough FBI background checks are required for the former and a picture ID is necessary for the latter. Therefore, if Gannon was using an alias, White House staff had to be involved in maintaining his cover.
Bruce Bartlett on the Poynter
site. BTW, he's a conservative and was a Senior Policy Analyst in the White House in the late '80s.
Real ID Act is Real Bad
Some right wing idiots in Congress are trying to ram through a bill called the Real ID Act. This is bad, bad stuff for a variety of reasons. One is that it would allow illegal immigrants to be deported back to countries that will torture them (or worse).
But if you want to get all "its all about me" about this bad proposal, get this: North Carolinians would not be able to use their driver's license
to board a plane. This is because you don't have to show proof of legal U.S. residency to get a North Carolina driver's license and this new act would require states to do that.
Anyway, its bad stuff so write your member of Congress today to stop this madness.
A couple of good posts today about the president's bizarre remarks regarding the Social Security trust fund:
The bottom line is that the trust fund is a moral and legal bond between those of us who have paid higher payroll taxes since 1983, and the wealthier people who will have to pay higher taxes (starting in 2019) for the bonds purchased by the trust fund to be paid. If, as it appears, the Bushies are trying to get out of meeting the obligations of those bonds, that's an impeachable offense (the Constitution requires that the president honor the nation's debts).
More Bush Lies
I knew the minute this came out of his mouth at the SOTU that Bush was lying. Now Josh Marshall
details the deception.
One of the most misleading comparisons President Bush made in his State of the Union address came when he compared private accounts carved out of Social Security to the Thrift Savings Plan available to employees of the federal government.
No federal employees put their Social Security funds into the TSP. The TSP is in addition to Social Security. To the extent that there is an analogy to anything it is to an add-on account -- the kind Democrats support and Republicans oppose. Indeed, the TSP is little different from private sector 401ks, a defined-contribution retirement plan
Faux reporter Jeff Gannon is gone
. The liberal blogosphere done him in. Its amusing stuff -- except of course it shows how the conservatives will lie, cheat, commit fraud, whatever to further control -- well, everything.
Bamboozlepalooza Comes to NC!
What Josh Marshall
refers to as Bamboozlepalooza -- the president's tour of the US to push his Social Security snake oil -- is coming to North Carolina
(specifically, Raleigh) Thursday. I'll be sure to steer clear -- although I wish I could've seen the Big Dog
in town last night.
Hillary Was Right
About the vast right-wing conspiracy. Read this
. It details how the conservative message machine was built and what progressives can do to respond.
One last Super Bowl note: after the game, my daughter and I were flipping channels and came across the Puppy Bowl on Animal Planet. This was their counter programming to the Super Bowl (it started at 3pm and ended around midnight). It consisted of puppies in a pen designed to look like a football field and stadium. That was it -- puppies playing with each other and with toys in the pen. Hilarious!
Speaking of dogs, I love The Dog Whisperer
show on National Geographic channel. Cesar Millan is fantastic with dogs -- he really understands how their feeble little brains work. Appropriately, he runs the Dog Psychology Center
-- there's a complex animal!
The story that won't die
, but was killed by the New York Times: that weird bulge in Bush's back during the debates.
did cover the story.
The Times ombudsman, Daniel Okrent, admits that the Times killed the story because it was close to the election and might affect the outcome.
But as David Neiwart
The truth of the matter is that killing a story that could affect the outcome of the election simply because it could affect the outcome of the election is an abandonment of one's duties as a journalist dedicated to publishing the truth and adequately informing the public. It would be one thing if the evidence was indeed speculative; but the evidence presented by Nelson and the Times' other sources, in fact, was well past speculation. It was, in fact, highly substantive. There's no other way of putting it: This is a gross dereliction of its Fourth Estate role as a public watchdog by the Times.
On the Attack -- Again
Not surprising, but the right wing attack machine is gearing up to smear
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid.
I doubt ol' Harry is shaking in his boots. When he was a Nevada gaming official, the mafia tried to intimidate him. When that didn't work, they tried to kill him (by blowing up his car). That didn't work either.
The right wing are such haters, aren't they?
Its easy to mock the despicable (my word of the day) Michael Medved but Wolcott
does it with style. Very funny post.
I don't typically watch the Super Bowl and yesterday was no exception. Sometimes the ads are amusing, but even that doesn't motivate me anymore. Besides, it would mean taking off my work (my second job) and I can't afford that!
Today, I discussed the ads with a co-worker who did watch. Interestingly, while he could describe the ads, he did not remember a single company that advertised. What a waste of money ($80,000 per second).
At work yesterday, a couple of us were talking about the game and of course last year's "wardrobe malfunction" came up. Someone stated emphatically that it was in poor taste. My immediate reaction to that is "according to whom?" Who is the arbiter of taste? Not me. Not the person who made this statement. Certainly not Michael Powell.
The reality is, most of America did not have a negative reaction to the Janet Jackson incident. The objections came in an organized, right-wing campaign a few days later. The same thing happened recently with the "Desperate Housewives" stunt on Monday Night Football. Most people did not have a negative reaction, but the right wing mullahs did and cranked up the media machine.
This is just despicable, but its par for the course for these guys. Remember, they want to dictate what is "morally acceptable," against the better judgement of most Americans. Don't let them get away with it!
Groundhog Day and the State of the Union Address took place on the same day. It is an ironic juxtaposition: one involves a meaningless ritual in which we look to a creature of little intelligence for prognostication and the other involves a groundhog.
(Apparently heard on Air America and sent to me by a friend.)
Here's a reality check
on the lies Bush perpetrated during the SOTU. Good stuff.
Focusing Our Message
Suggestions from some polling done by Hart Research about how progressives should focus our message in the Social Security debate:
The Bush plan undermines retirement security by cutting guaranteed benefits 30% to 50%, even for those who don't choose an account. Risky privatization accounts won't make up the difference. Working people should get the benefits they paid for.
Social Security does face problems, but the Bush plan makes the problem worse and weakens Social Security by diverting trillions of dollars from the trust fund.
We can strengthen Social Security without slashing benefits:
Require Congress to pay back the money it has diverted from Social Security and create new opportunities for Americans to have tax-free savings for their retirement in addition to Social Security.
(from Kevin Drum
More on the Bush Boondoggle
From Kevin Drum
You put some money into a "private account," and in return you get lower benefits. The feds actually own the account, though, and will pay you the benefits you would have gotten anyway under the system we already have — but only if the account does well. If the account does really well, you might get a bit of bonus cash. And the cost? Hard to say. But at least $4 or $5 trillion for a system that — even in the worst case — is only $3.7 trillion in the hole for the next 75 years.
Oh, and did we mention that participants are required to buy annuities instead of cashing out their accounts when they retire? So much for bequeathing your "personal account" to your kids in the event of your untimely demise.
What a Rube Goldberg monstrosity: layer upon layer of weird safeguards and limitations just to make sure that the new system can do what the current system already does, namely provide a guaranteed, stable retirement income for old people.
The worst part of the whole thing is how unnecessary it is.
The Bushies appear to be shifting the focus on their argument for piratizing Social Security:
In a significant shift in his rationale for the accounts, Bush dropped his claim that they would help solve Social Security's fiscal problems — a link he sometimes made during last year's presidential campaign. Instead, he said the individual accounts were desirable because they would be "a better deal," providing workers what he said would be a higher rate of return and "greater security in retirement.
From Talking Points Memo
Its a familiar tactic with these guys. Just like the reason we went to war in Iraq has morphed from WMDs to spreading democracy.
Don't let them get away with it!
new word for what Shrub is proposing on Social Security. While Josh Marshall
is doing yeoman's work on the issue, Atrios is on it like white on rice this morning. Some choice passages:
So, here's the basic Bush piratization plan:
Cuts in guaranteed benefits to make the system solvent in perpetuity without any tax increases.
A "voluntary" system of accounts that lets you divert up to 4 percentage points of your payroll taxes, subject to smaller cap in early years. Initial investment
choices would be based on the Thrift Savings Plan.
On top of guaranteed benefit cuts, there's a one for one benefit offset up to a 3 percent real rate of return, or the real rate of return on Treasury bonds (unclear if it's actually 3 percent or just expected to be 3 percent -- I assume the latter). In other words, your SS benefits are cut dollar for dollar up until you hit that magic limit then the extra is yours. Odd, I thought the trust fund wasn't real. Silly me. There's very little actual "ownership" here.
Opting out of the system essentially involves putting all of your money in bonds, insuring that you can't possibly exceed the actual rate of return on bonds).
Upon retirement, you're forced to buy an annuity such that your SS benefits plus the annuity purchased from your personal account at the minimum give you poverty line income. Unclear what happens if there isn't enough money to get you to the poverty line. The federal government would handle the annuities. The rest you can spend when you want.
If you retire and die the next day, as with any annuity the money reverts back to the issuer - in this case the feds. In other words, it isn't inheritable If the government underestimates life expectancy (the miracle cure appears), I imagine we'll hear talk about how those annuity contracts are "just IOUS" and the gov't can't afford to pay, blah blah blah.
And this from the Washington Post
In effect, the accounts would work more like a loan from the government, to be paid back upon retirement at an inflation-adjusted 3 percent interest rate -- the interest the money would have earned if it had been invested in Treasury bonds, said Peter R. Orszag, a Social Security analyst at the Brookings Institution and a former Clinton White House economist.
"I believe you should be able to set aside part of that money in your own retirement account so you can build a nest egg for your own future," Bush said in his speech.
Orszag retorted: "It's not a nest egg. It's a loan."
Under the system, the gains may be minimal. The Social Security Administration, in projecting benefits under a partially privatized system, assumes a 4.6 percent rate of return above inflation. The Congressional Budget Office, Capitol Hill's official scorekeeper, assumes 3.3 percent gains.
If a worker sets aside $1,000 a year for 40 years, and earns 4 percent annually on investments, the account would grow to $99,800 in today's dollars, but the government would keep $78,700 -- or about 80 percent of the account. The remainder, $21,100, would be the worker's.
Last Word on Iraqi Election
While Bush continues to try to claim credit for bringing the Iraqis "democracy" (kinda like the slavemaster took credit for the "happiness" of his possessions), please remember this:
...the only reason we just had elections in Iraq was because of a UN-brokered deal with the country's most prominent cleric — opposed by the Bush administration for over a year until they were finally forced to give in and agree to it.
The General Speaks
About the SOTU
and of course its hilarious.
There's lot of it going on as conservatives attempt to revise history. David Neiwart
has more -- click through and read it all.
This is what we all need to understand about the current spate of historical revisionism: It is occurring in the service of a broader agenda to recast our very understanding of the meaning of our history, and thus the meaning of America itself.
and this conclusion
If the nation succumbs to the notion that progressive advances of the 20th century have harmed us, and becomes intent on rolling back those advances, we need to be realistic about what kind of path this will lead us down. It is not a bright one.
I don't know if this is true or not, but if it is, what a bunch of maroons:
In the latest sign that the G.O.P. is intent on politicizing everything Iraq-related, Congressional Republicans are reportedly planning to show up at tonight's State of the Union address with purple ink on their fingers to send the message that they support Iraqi voters.
I remind them of the Charles Pierce piece quoted in an earlier post: You do not own their courage.
This reminds me of the Purple Heart band-aids stunt at the GOP convention. These people are just clueless creeps.
Another Ethics Question
Coming after the revelations of the Bush administation paying media to promote Bush views and after the Bush administration putting out video "news releases" that are administration propoganda, now there are a lot of questions about "Jeff Gannon" (probably not his real name -- which raises security issues) and Talon News, owned by a "Texas-based Republican Party delegate and political activist who also runs GOPUSA.com, a website that touts itself as 'bringing the conservative message to America'." This is the guy who at White House press briefings and presidential press conferences can be counted on to lob some softballs and to denigrate liberals -- oh, and to run pretty much verbatim Bush admin releases. This has been going around the blogosphere for a while, but now the mainstream media
is picking up the store. So is this guy a real journalist and should he have credentials? We report, you decide.
I like how Josh Marshall
is referring to Shrub's tour after the Disgrace of the Union speech as the Bamboozelpalooza tour, as Shrub attempts to bamboozle the nation about Social Security the way he and his team did about WMD.
Racism in the Schools
made me crazy for two reasons.
(If you don't want to click through, its a local newspaper article about a consultant hired by the school district to help deal with the institutional racism problem. As far as I can tell from the article, he has been paid $62,000 in the last year to lecture administrators about how racist they are and to develop a program of "equity.")
First, its just so fucking liberal -- the knee-jerk, hand-wringing, crunchy granola kind -- to pay someone to lecture you about how racist you are. What is this, a confessional? Get real. Of course, institutional racism exists. We are all racist (white and black -- and I'll bet you anything that this guy is one of those who will tell you that blacks can't be racist because racism is about power and blacks don't have power -- to which I reply, tell that to the growing black middle class, Robert Johnson, Richard Parsons, Oprah Winfrey, whoever). Its what we do about our racism that matters. I work every day to address my racism -- but I'll never deny that those feelings are there. I just don't need to do penance to some guy who's getting paid to tell me how racist I am.
Second, it appears from the article and from my own experiences of having children in the district that what this guy's idea of "equity" is LOWERING THE BAR! He has suggested that teachers not assign work that requires the use of "expensive" materials or not going on "expensive" field trips. Ever hear of subsidizing those who can't afford it? As far as supplying computers, fine, but ever hear of a library (I know our city library has lots of computers available free of charge) or school computer lab?
Now, I totally disagree with the parents who are complaining that the emphasis on improving minority school performance is taking away from their own precious and extremely priveledged little white children. That's just BS and they should shut up.
But come on now, let's actually DO SOMETHING about minority achievement, not just feel bad about it and lower the bar. What should be done? How about programs to instill middle class values in these kids? And what's more middle class than striving to be more than your parents? Achieving "equity" by lowering the expectations is ridiculous. Instead, we should be arranging for these kids to experience and be expected to embrace middle class values which would give them skills and aspirations to break out of their socio-economic prison.
(And don't even tell me this means we're expecting black kids to act white. That's BS and again ask any wealthy or middle class black person if they really feel that they're acting white or selling out. Money is green, not black or white.)
When my daughter was in 5th grade (and I guess I should mention here that my kids are bi-racial and therefore are considered minorities), she participated in a program run jointly by the university and the district. Designed to get minority kids interested in careers in medicine, the program enlisted black medical students at the local university to conduct a series of free Saturday workshops where the kids studied various medical subjects. I believe there was even free transportation for those kids who might have had a probem getting to campus. On the final day, the kids did some great presentations for the parents and there was a nice luncheon. I believe they do this again in high school.
This, to me, is what we should be doing more of. Emphasize the positive aspects of middle class life. I remember when my troubled son was in middle school and they had a program to take troubled black boys to a jail so they could see how bad it was. I had a fit and wouldn't let him go. Instead, I suggested, why didn't they take these boys to the local university, have them meet with some black male college students and encourage them to see themselves as going to college, rather than going to jail?
Now, I do think some
teachers and particularly guidance counselors could benefit from workshops on institutional racism and how to avoid it in helping kids make choices. There was a story in the paper a year or so ago about a high acheiving black girl in one of the high schools whose guidance counselor refused to help her with college choices because he just assumed she was not going to be able to go. And I have personally witnessed a glorified, much loved teacher of the year who was quite racist to the point where the black kids (who subconciously recognized what the teacher was doing and acted on it) were so badly behaved that the class had to be monitored by an assistant principal just to keep order. So its there and it needs to be addressed.
(I must add that most teachers in the district are committed educators and many are incredibly dedicated to helping minority students succeed. Again, that's a strength that should be emphasized.)
But, enough with the atonement and the Harrison Bergeron-like
lowering of standards. Instead, let's help these kids envision themselves as successful and empower them with the skills they need to succeed. And not just the academic skills, but the social skills as well. A lot of these kids do not know how to behave in assemblies, so how would they ever know how to behave in an office setting? Again, this can be addressed through setting expectations and modeling behaviors. This modeling needs to begin very early on, in elementary school.
These kids need extra support because they are most likely not going to receive it at home. What they don't need is lowered expectations. And what the teachers and administrators who work with the kids need is money and the training to address the kids' problems, not having their "guilt" addressed by some high priced (though well meaning, I'm sure) consultant.
on the Catch 22 faced by those who propose privatizing Social Security. (yeah, you have to register, but its worth it)
They can rescue their happy vision for stock returns by claiming that the Social Security actuaries are vastly underestimating future economic growth. But in that case, we don't need to worry about Social Security's future: if the economy grows fast enough to generate a rate of return that makes privatization work, it will also yield a bonanza of payroll tax revenue that will keep the current system sound for generations to come.
Alternatively, privatizers can unhappily admit that future stock returns will be much lower than they have been claiming. But without those high returns, the arithmetic of their schemes collapses.